Letter from Grace Lewis (1886)
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On Saturday 4th September 1886 Grace Rosa Lewis wrote a personal letter from a Brislington address to her friend Nina Hutteman. In May 2018 it was put up for auction on a well-known online shopping site. It failed to attract any bidders but the following month, when it was advertised again, it was bought, scanned, and published here after initial research revealed that both the writer and recipient had died more than 70 years ago.
Grace was the daughter of Charles and Marianne Lewis, and they appear with her sister Lucy in the 1881 census. They were then living at Clevedon, and Charles was a Baptist Minister and Missionery. Grace was born in 1859 or 1860, and her sister was six years her elder. Both daughters had been born in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India; Charles (59) was from Ross, Herefordshire, and Marianne (60) was from Bristol.
1881 was the family's first known entry in the census, so it may be surmised they'd spent a lot of time abroad. Indeed, the return to Britain may have been the "move" that caused the upset mentioned in the letter. Whatever the nature of the move, to aid Grace's recovery she had been sent to stay with her uncle - Joseph Lewis - at Hill Cottage.
Joseph had been born in Bristol, and the 1881 census cites him as a 59-year old widower with a dye manufacturing business employing 17 men and 3 boys. Two others lived with him, both female: Mary Slocombe, a 40-year old home helper, and Rhoda Bourton, a 16-year old domestic servant. The 1891 census shows Mary was still in her position, but Lizzie Kirby (20) was the new domestic servant.
Nina Hutteman was also born in Calcutta, in 1853 or 1854, and at the time the letter was written was living at Eversley, West Cliff, Bournemouth, Hampshire. She married James Hume, who was her own age and from Northumberland, in the summer of 1891. A decade later the census shows he was a private tutor, and she was proprietor of the boarding house where they lived - Silver How, West Cliff, Bournemouth (in advertisements she called herself Mrs Hume, but unusually she suffixed the name with "née Hutteman"). She raised her family in Bournemouth, and died on 30 April 1929, leaving a legacy of more than £1,000.
Grace never married, and appears not to have had any children (although children featured strongly in her life, as her letter shows). On 16 May 1939, while living in Highgate, London, she died, leaving a legacy of £371 9s 6d to a spinster - they'd shared lodgings together in Hendon, Middlesex, when Grace lived on her own private means, but spent her time as a Historical Research Student (1911 census).
Read Grace's letter to Nina.
Find spot: Writer's address: Hill Cottage, Brislington
Exhibit contributed by Ken Taylor
Text written by Ken Taylor
Photographer: Ken Taylor
Acquisition number: 180617a1